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7Up Ups Ad Budget

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7Up is feeling bubbly about its prospects.

This week the original lemon-lime soft drink is launching its first new ad push in more than three years. A pomegranate line extension is on deck for later this year, and a package facelift is in store for 2010.

TV ads breaking this week featuring Every body Loves Raymond star Brad Garrett emphasize that 7Up is “Ridiculously bubbly.” The theme behind the new campaign is that a sip of soda can make the biggest grumps happy-go-lucky.

The premiere ad shows Garrett with his agents who say, “The studio loves you for the grumpy neighbor. I mean you’re Brad Garrett, Mr. Curmudgeon, Mr. Grumpers.” After sipping a 7Up, he begins to sing, dance, hand out balloons and tickle a horse. One agent responds, “I don’t know who he is right now, but he needs to stop it.” Tag: “Crisp. Clean 7Up. Ridiculously bubbly.” Garrett is the first of many celebrities who will appear in the campaign that Young & Rubicam handles.

7Up, which is owned by the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, faces numerous challenges as it works to turn its fortunes around. Not only are carbonated soft drink sales in decline, the lemon lime category’s sales volume slipped 4.4 percent last year, per Beverage Digest. 7Up’s sales volume slipped 8.1 percent in 2008. For the first half of this year, it fell 7.7 percent across major retail channels. “It’s been a struggle from a performance standpoint,” said John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest.

7Up’s bubble burst in 2003 when PepsiCo kicked it out of its bottling network and replaced it with its homegrown Sierra Mist. Coca-Cola, meanwhile, has stayed aggressive with Sprite. 7Up is now distributed through a series of independent bottlers.

To draw attention to itself in 2006, it rebranded itself as “all-natural.” This new effort is a step away from that positioning, said David Falk, director of 7Up and flavors at the Dr Pepper Snapple Group. “We kind of lost the communication rooted in the insights of what 7Up means. Our consumers are generally upbeat and positive. They say the first sip is difference, the cleanness and crispness of the product.”

Packaging, debuting next year, will play up the “magic of the brand’s bubbles,” said Falk. “The natural aspects are still important, but at the end of the day, carbonated soft drinks are fun, so the packaging needed to be contemporized.”

Following the launch of Cherry 7Up with antioxidants earlier this year, the brand is also rolling out Pomegranate 7Up with antioxidants for the holidays.

Falk said the company’s investment in the new campaign will be a significant increase over last year’s spending.

In 2008, the brand spent $21 million on media, per The Nielsen Co. (That figure  doesn’t include online advertising.) Why spend? “Brands that advertise during economic lulls come out of those times a lot stronger,” said Falk.

There are signs that the beverage category may be coming out of its swoon, said Gary Hemphill, managing director, Beverage Marketing Corp. “For the brave few that venture out and innovate and invest, there is an opportunity,” he said.

7Up has a long history of employing actors to promote its brand. Orlando Jones and comedian Godfrey got their first big breaks appearing as “The 7Up Guy.” Sister brand Dr Pepper is also employing stars in its ads including Gene Simmons, Kelsey Grammar and Julius Erving.

Interestingly, Garrett’s first paying acting job was a 7Up ad 25 years ago. “He dropped out of college to appear in a 7Up commercial,” said Falk. “He’s come full circle.”